Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2009 Lambert Ranch Petite Sirah

It's becoming a common theme, but things have been a little hectic lately and just haven't had time to tell the world about the petite sirah that I started from frozen must last month. Faithful readers will remember the whole discussion about making the trip to CT for the Brehm frozen chardonnay juice and my decision to make the trip a little more worthwhile by stopping at M&M Wine Grape in Hartford on my way home to pick up some frozen red must. Well, it was WELL worth the stop.

I had purchased 6 5 gal buckets of frozen crushed grapes that had been grown by the Lanza family at their Lambert Ranch Vineyard Block 29 in the Suisan Valley of California. That's just to the southeast of Napa Valley and is becoming known as a very Napa-like climatic region, but much less expensive. I stored the buckets in my basement while they warmed up, which only took about 48 hours. Processing went like a breeze--since everything was already crushed, I just poured the thawed buckets into a couple of fermenters (3 buckets each).

Harvest stats:
Brix = 25.4 (PA = 14%), pH = 3.69, and total acid = 5.1 g/L

Since the acid and pH are a little low and high, respectively, I added 30 g of tartaric acid (1 g/L dose) to each fermenter to nudge those numbers up and down a little. Each fermenter also got a dose of Scottzyme Color Pro to help stabilize the wonderful dark color of the must and break down the grape solids during fermentation. Fermenter 1 was innoculated with 8 g of L2056 yeast while Fermenter 2 received 8g of D254 yeast. My intent is for the D254 yeast to help enhance the fruity aromas while the L2056 emphasizes the spicy notes.

Fermentation was visible within 24 hours and it proceeded rapidly. I was fermenting in my basement, so I was pretty pleased that I got a nice temperature spike up to 78 °F to help set the color. Interestingly, the ferment finished at about observed Brix = 9 in both fermenters, which indicates some residual sugar, but my Accuvin tests say that there is <100 mg/L and it tastes dry, so I believe that fermentation was complete. Both fermenters got a little extended maceration under Saran wrap because I had to wait until the weekend to press. After one messy press job (see picture below), I combined all of the press fractions into my new 39 gal variable capacity tank and innoculated with CH35 malolactic bacteria. It's been kind of hard to determine if the MLF has commenced since the wine is encased in stainless steel. However, when I press my ear against the tank, I hear the faint sound of popcorn rustling and a metallic clank ever once in awhile that I believe is the marble in the airlock letting CO2 gas escape. So, I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that MLF is in progress. I'll take a chromatography reading this weekend to confirm, but so far looks good!

I've been pretty pleased with this experiment in frozen grape must. The color of the pressed wine is out of this world, and the taste is full of big cherry notes with a firm tannic backbone.

Here's what my hands looked like when I was done pressing.

Now I just need another barrel for aging...


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Maple "Icewine" Racked

I'm sitting here tonight immediately after racking the Maple "Icewine" that I started a couple of months ago. I haven't seen any activity in the airlock for at least a week or so, the foam at the top of the carboy has dispersed, and the lees are collecting in a nice thick layer at the bottom of the carboy while the wine is beginning to clear, so I'm thinking the yeast has given up the ghost. My hydrometer says that in the past 3 weeks, the specific gravity has only dropped by 0.5 Brix. After considerable thought over a glass of David Coffaro 2007 Carignan, I decided to rack and sulfite.

I ended up with a 3 gal carboy, a 1/2 gal jug, a 750 mL wine bottle, and a 375 mL wine bottle full of these thick, golden yellow liquid. Before I finished cleaning the carboy, I sat down with a small little tipple to examine the product in motion. The aroma is enticing--maple syrup, pineapple, and raisins. The golden yellow color is fetching. All in all, looks & smells pretty darn good. Big, round, lucious mouthfeel with a zing of a finish. I personally think this is calling for a big bowl of ice cream to drizzle over.

Wow, I think this is pretty good stuff. Alcohol is still a little low, but pretty nice balance of sweet, alcohol, and taste. Perhaps a little tart, but I think that will age out. Perhaps next time, I'll aim for a slightly lower acid level.

The wine is in the carboy. After it sits for a few days, I'll start the filtering process to remove the residual yeast cells. In the meantime....


Sunday, August 22, 2010

2006 White Salmon Chardonnay

No, I haven't discovered the secret to time travel--just the next best thing in winemaking. A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that I was heading for New Haven, CT to pick up some frozen grape juice from Brehm Vineyards east coast freezer. Between the fermentations, running, and attacking my front sidewalk replacement project, I just haven't found much time for blogging. Since it's sprinkling in Boston this morning, I'm going to sneak onto the computer for awhile before I head into the city for the American Chemical Society National Meeting this afternoon.

After I got home, the chardonnay was still pretty frozen, so I left it in the basement to finish thawing. A couple of days later, I had 3 buckets of juice with pretty decent numbers

Brix = 22.8, pH = 3.59, total acid = 5.8 g/L

Brehm recommended adding 1 g/L tartaric acid prior to fermentation to bring the acid levels down a little. Since I'm planning on aiming for a full-bodied, Burgundian style chard with full malolactic fermentation, I agreed with him and added 20 g of tartaric acid to each 5 gal bucket along with Opti-White to improve the mouthfeel. For added complexity, I decided to use 3 different yeasts and blend before bottling.

ICVD254 to emphasize fruit aromas and nutty flavors.
CY3079 for mouthfeel and buttery goodness
T306 for exotic fruit and pineapple flavors (new yeast from Australia that I decided to try)

I started the fermentations in the buckets. After the bugs started working, I cooled the buckets in a water bath to keep the temperature at 68 °C or below (my current basement temperature). The ICVD254 was a strong fermenter and dropped below 1/3 sugar depletion within 3 days, so I transferred that to a carboy and airlock and continued cooling it in the water bath. The other 2 were a little slower, but were transferred a day or two later.

A week later, I checked the Brix levels and things were almost done. Still have 1-2% sugar left, so I took the carboys out of the water baths for a couple of days to help encourage the yeast to finish. I racked off the major gross lees and innocculated with CH35 malolactic bacteria. I love that bacteria strain because you just add the freeze-dried bacteria directly to the wine instead of rehydrating (one less thing to do). As far as I can tell, MLF took off very quickly because I've got a steady production of tiny gas bubbles in all three carboys at the moment.

So it's a waiting game now until the MLF is complete. I'm pretty pleased so far. Lots of nutty, pineapple, and peach aromas. Color looks good.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

2010 Indy International Wine Competition Results!

Guess what?

The results of the 2010 Indy International Wine Competition have been posted. Indy is tagged as the world's largest scientific wine competition (for whatever that's worth).

Aaronap Cellars received 3 medals for 3 entries!!! I entered the 2009 Chilean Chablis Chardonnay, the 2008 Chilean Malbec, and the 2008 Northern CA Zinfandel. All three wines received bronze medals!!!

Haven't got the judges comments yet, but I'm pretty darn pleased with myself!


Road Trip for Frozen Grapes

Last month I got a notice that Brehm Vineyards was having an inventory reduction sale. I've been intrigued by the frozen juice & must products that Brehm sells because he sources grapes from some of the most premium vineyards on the West Coast, including his own White Salmon Vineyard in the Columbia River Gorge in Washington. However, because the grapes are premium and he's got some pretty high overhead costs (with the freezing and storage and all), he charges a pretty premium price. So when the sale notice came out, I took notice and got a little excited when I saw that he had frozen White Salmon chardonnay juice at his New Haven, CT distribution center on sale for $50/5.25 gal bucket (almost a 1/2 price reduction). Granted, it was from the 2006 vintage, but it's been in deep freeze ever since and should still be good.

So I bought 3 buckets.

Now, faithful readers will recognize that I can't do anything without making it as complicated as possible, so you have an idea where this is going. I started thinking...

If I have to drive to New Haven to pick up the chardonnay, I drive right past M&M Wine Grape in Hartford and they've got a wide selection of frozen juices/musts as well. If I were to stop and get a red wine, I could get it fermented before the 2010 grapes come in October. That would make the fall harvest time a little easier for me.

See, it's really all about making things easier... :)

After a little research, I decided to try the 2009 Lanza Vineyards Suisun Valley Petite Sirah. Folks on Winepress raved about it, and the price was reasonable, so I bought 6 buckets.

I took Monday, August 2 off of work, hopped in my truck, and headed south. Trip was just peachy until I hit the I-91/I-95 intersection and ran into a 2 mile backup at 12 noon. Arrgh. I'm flipping through my Garmin turn instructions and realize that I don't have to get onto I-95 like it's telling me to, so I swerved into the exit ramp and bypassed the whole mess. Get to the freezer facility just shortly after noon, only to find that the shipping & receiving office is closed from 12:00-12:30 for lunch. Would have been nice if they had mentioned that on the phone when I asked when I could stop in! Fortunately, an IKEA store was just next door, so I walked over and got myself a frozen yogurt cone. Pretty "cool" way to kill half an hour. 12:31 on the dot, I'm back at the freezer and the shipping clerk pauses his lunch to go grab my 3 buckets. He couldn't have done that 30 minutes ago before he started eating?

Back on the road heading north, I make a pitstop at M&M to grab the petite sirah. Had a nice conversation with Tom who convinced me to try a different yeast. And then it was homeward bound. Got home about 4:00 and moved the buckets into the basement to finish thawing. Here's some pictures of the bounty.